What the Latest Cybersecurity Reports are Telling Us

Over the past few weeks, Verizon, Symantec and others have published a number of in-depth reports setting out the state of cybersecurity here in the U.S. and globally. These reports, including Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigation Report (VDBIR) and Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR),  set out in detail the types of threats facing organizations and, in doing so, provide something of a road map for how organizations can prepare for and defend against cyberattacks.

“Symantec has established the largest civilian threat collection network in the world [that] monitors threat activities in 157 countries and territories…”
To follow, then, are 10 takeaways and excerpts from these reports, as well as a few suggestions for how to move forward:

• The frequency of ransomware attacks (a cyberattack that limits a user’s access to their system, network or data unless and until a ransom is paid) increased 50% in 2016 compared to the year prior. (Source: Fortune | Tech, Data Sheet — Saturday, April 29, 2017, by Robert Hackett, citing the VDBIR).

• In 2016, ransomware was “one of the top five most common varieties of malware, rocketing from 22nd place in 2014.” (Source: Id.)

• “The United States continues to be the region where ransomware is most prevalent, where more than 1/3 of all ransomware infections were logged in 2016.” (Source: Symantec April 2017 Internet Security Threat Report, p. 57).

Business email compromise (a/k/a “BEC,” sometimes called “wire transfer fraud”) and email account compromise (a/k/a “EAC”) scams “continue to grow, evolve, and target small, medium, and large businesses. Between January 2015 and December 2016, there was a 2,370% increase in identified exposed [BEC/EAC] losses.” (Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation Public Service Announcement Alert Number I-050417-PSA, May 4, 2017).

• The FBI estimates BEC/EAC scams have cost organizations more than $5 billion in losses over the past three years. (Source: Id.).

Overall email malware rate “increased significantly during 2016, from 1 in 220 emails sent containing malware in 2015, to 1 in 131 emails in 2016 (that’s a 40% increase) (Source: ISTR).

Email malware hit small- to medium-sized businesses the hardest (251-500 employees); these businesses saw the highest rate of malware in email traffic at 1 in every 95 emails received containing malware. (Source: ISTR).

“The BEC/EAC scam continues to grow, evolve, and target small, medium, and large businesses. Between January 2015 and December 2016, there was a 2,370% increase in identified exposed losses.”

90% of all data breaches are attributed to phishing emails. (Source: Malware Year in Review 2016, published by PhishMe).

63% of all phishing attacks were used to deliver malware designed to siphon information and data from victim’s environments to the threat actor. (Source: Id.).

• While the number of data breaches in 2016 remained steady compared to 2015, the number of identities stolen increased significantly. Almost 1.1 billion identities were stolen in 2016, a big jump from the 563.8 million stolen in 2015. (Source: ISTR).

There is a lot of good information in these reports and others, the cumulative effect of which is to shine a bright light on the cybersecurity problem facing organizations in the United States and globally.  The problem can be, frankly, overwhelming for many, which is why focus is so important.

Smart leaders will digest these reports and identify what’s applicable and relevant to their organizations, only. Don’t try and tackle the universe of cybersecurity issues. Instead, deliberately pursue a strategy of preparedness (technical and cultural) for the threats you’re most likely to face. Be comprehensive, for sure, but train employees to resist threats they are most likely to encounter (ransomware, phishing, BEC) so that training can be effective and productive.

It certainly can be a scary time right now as these reports illustrate. But with dedication of time, energy and resources, organizations large and small can prepare and be ready to defend the fort against those seeking to do damage or profit through cyberwarfare.

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